Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
  • Print publication year: 2009
  • Online publication date: December 2010

4 - Competing Conceptions of Public Reason

Summary

In the previous chapter, I tried to show how a concern about public justification emerges when the state legislates on the basis of reasons that reasonable people may be justified in rejecting. In exercising the power of judicial review, the judge assesses the quality of the reasons that the state has offered on behalf of the law in question. The less controversial the underlying reasons, the more publicly justified, and thus legitimate, that law is likely to be. After taking into account a presumption of freedom and equality, if the judge concludes that a reasonable person would accept those reasons, then the law is constitutional. If a reasonable person would reject the reasons, then the law is unconstitutional. An ideal of public justification serves a normative standard for the use of public reason. However, those who adhere to this ideal are divided over how to draw the line between public and nonpublic reasons and whether deliberators may rely on nonpublic reasons in certain situations. As a consequence, there are “competing conceptions of public reason.” In this chapter, my aim is to sketch the debate about public reason, to spell out the similarities and differences of the three basic paths to public justification, and to identify some of the main questions about how such justification can be accomplished.

THE THREE CONCEPTIONS

According to Lawrence Solum, there are three basic principles of public reason: “laissez-faire,” “exclusion,” and “inclusion.”

Related content

Powered by UNSILO
Solum, Lawrence B., “Constructing an Ideal of Public Reason,” 30 San Diego Law Review (1993), 730
Solum, Lawrence B., “Inclusive Public Reason,” 75 Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (1994), 217
Solum, Lawrence B., “Pluralism and Public Legal Reason,” Symposium: Religion, Division, and the Constitution, 15 William and Mary Bill of Rights Journal (2006), 11
Solum, Lawrence B., “Public Legal Reason,” 92 Virginia Law Review (2006), 1466
White, Stephen K., The Recent Work of Jürgen Habermas: Reason, Justice and Modernity (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), 1
Gaus, Gerald F., “Liberal Neutrality: A Compelling and Radical Principle,” in Perfectionism and Neutrality: Essays in Liberal Theory, ed. Wall, Stephen and Klosko, George (New York: Rowman and Littlefield, 2003), 138
Gauthier, David, “Public Reason,” 12 Social Philosophy and Policy (1995), 30
Gauthier, David, Morals by Agreement (Oxford, U.K.: Clarendon Press, 1986), 221
Kukathas, Chandran and Pettit, Philip, Rawls: A Theory of Justice and Its Critics (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1990), 33
O'Neill, Onora, “The Public Use of Reason,” in Constructions of Reason: Explorations of Kant's Practical Philosophy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 38
Kant, Immanuel, Critique of Pure Reason, trans. Smith, Norman Kemp (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1965), 593
Korsgaard, Christine M., “The Reasons We Share,” in Creating the Kingdom of Ends (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 295
Habermas, Jürgen, Moral Consciousness and Communicative Action, trans. Lenhardt, Christian and Nicolsen, Shierry Weber (Cambridge, UK: Polity Press, 1990), 68
McCarthy, Thomas, “Kantian Constructivism and Reconstructivism: Rawls and Habermas in Dialogue,” 105 Ethics (1994), 45
Olafson, Frederick A., “Habermas as Philosopher,” 100 Ethics (1990), 645
Habermas, Jürgen, “Reconciliation through the Public Use of Reason: Remarks on John Rawls's Political Liberalism,” 92 Journal of Philosophy (1995), 131
Moon, J. Donald, “Practical Discourse and Communicative Ethics,” in The Cambridge Companion to Habermas, ed. White, Stephen K. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1995), 148
Wolfe, Alan, One Nation, After All: What Middle-Class Americans Really Think about God, Country, Family, Racism, Welfare, Immigration, Homosexuality, Work, the Right, the Left, and Each Other (New York: Viking Books, 1998)
Greenawalt, Kent, Private Consciences and Public Reasons (New York: Oxford University Press, 1995), 52
Shenkman, Rick, Just How Stupid Are We? Facing the Truth about the American Voter (New York: Basic Books, 2008), 3
Meiklejohn, Alexander, Free Speech and Its Relation to Self-Government (New York: Harper and Brothers, 1948), 22
Benhabib, Seyla, Situating the Self: Gender, Community and Postmodernism in Contemporary Ethics (New York: Routledge, 1992), 169
Audi, Robert, “The Separation of Church and State and the Obligations of Citizenship,” 18 Philosophy and Public Affairs (1989), 278
Nagel, Thomas, “Moral Conflict and Political Legitimacy,” 16 Philosophy and Public Affairs (1987), 229
Larmore, Charles, Patterns of Moral Complexity (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987), x
Ackerman, Bruce, Social Justice in the Liberal State (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1980), 10–11
Bertram, Christopher, “Theories of Public Reason,” 2 Imprints (1997), 76
Gaus, Gerald F., “Public Justification and Democratic Adjudication,” 2 Constitutional Political Economy (1991), 257
Gaus, Gerald F., Justificatory Liberalism: An Essay on Epistemology and Political Theory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996), 11
Nozick, Robert, Anarchy, State, and Utopia (New York: Basic Books, 1974), ix
Williams, Bernard, “Toleration: An Impossible Virtue?” in Toleration: An Elusive Virtue, ed. Heyd, David (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 18–27
Bohman, James, “Public Reason and Cultural Pluralism,” 23 Political Theory (1995), 259
Kuhn, Deanna, The Skills of Argument (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 139–46
Lister, Andrew, “Public Justification and the Limits of State Action,” Politics, Philosophy, and Economics, forthcoming 2010
Wolgast, Elizabeth A., “The Demands of Public Reason,” 94 Columbia Law Review (1994), 1943–4
Ackerman, Bruce, “Why Dialogue?86 Journal of Philosophy (1989), 16
Marneffe, Peter, “Rawls's Idea of Public Reason,” 75 Pacific Philosophical Quarterly (1994), 250n17
Larmore, Charles, “Public Reason,” in The Cambridge Companion to Rawls, ed. Freeman, Samuel (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003), 368
Rawls, John, “The Idea of Public Reason Revisited,” in The Law of Peoples (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1999), 131–80
Freeman, Samuel, Rawls (New York: Routledge, 2007), 372
Quong, Jonathan, “The Scope of Public Reason,” 52 Political Studies (2004), 234
Greenawalt, Kent, “On Public Reason,” 69 Chicago-Kent Law Review (1994), 685–9
Sandel, Michael J., “Political Liberalism,” review, 107 Harvard Law Review (1994), 1789
Raz, Joseph, “Facing Diversity: The Case for Epistemic Abstinence,” 19 Philosophy and Public Affairs (1990), 9
Brower, Bruce W., “The Limits of Public Reason,” 91 Journal of Philosophy (1994), 26
Neal, Patrick, “Is Public Reason Innocuous?11 Critical Review of International Social and Political Philosophy (2008), 133
Wolff, Robert Paul, In Defense of Anarchism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1970)
Westmoreland, Robert, “The Truth about Public Reason,” 18 Law and Philosophy (1999), 283
Scanlon, T. M., “The Difficulty of Tolerance,” in Toleration: An Elusive Virtue, ed. Heyd, David (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1996), 232